Everywhere you look there is advice on how to write the perfect resume or what the best answer is to the ultimate interview questions. (Spoilers: it’s not 42. Disappointing, I know.) Some of these places offer really good advice. Unfortunately, there is more than one way to nail an interview. Different companies use different processes to look for different things.
Recruiting, interviewing, selection, and hiring are subjective.
If you ask ten recruiters for feedback on your resume or cover letter, you will end up with ten different opinions. Some of those opinions may contradict. This also goes for how to answer interview questions, regardless of which question it is.
So, how in the world are you supposed to prepare?
Don’t get me wrong. As recruiters, we try and decrease the subjectivity as much as possible.
We (try to) ignore resume format choices.
We create interview questions that focus on past work experience and competencies only as they relate to the skills necessary for the jobs we’re filling.
Some of us even design scorecards and interview evaluation forms to help us stay as objective as humanly possible.
That’s the thing though. We are human. There are some things we just cannot help, no matter how hard we try.
The good news is there are some things you can do that will help improve your chances, regardless of who is reviewing your resume.
Proofread, proofread, proofread
Find and remove all typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors in whatever you use to present yourself to prospective employers.
This includes your:
- Cover letter
- Thank you note
- LinkedIn profile (or any job hunting profile)
Mistakes in any of these places, especially obvious ones, are unacceptable. This can be a bit of a drag but double-checking your work will help you out in the long run. It is hard to convince someone you pay attention to the fine details when you misspell a common word or use the wrong ‘there’. By not proofreading your work, you are doing yourself a disservice.
There are countless proofreading tools online that can help you find any spelling or grammar mistakes you might have missed. Use them. They will make your life much easier.
Do your homework
Due diligence is critical to a successful interview. If you don’t know what the company does, what people are saying about it, and what we say about ourselves, you are not getting to the next interview.
This can be as simple as reading through a few pages on the website (About, Employees, and Products and Services are a good place to start). You can also get a good feel for the company by checking out their social media. Setting aside time to do some research shows that you care.
Keep your replies relevant
When an interviewer says “tell me about yourself”, they aren’t asking you to list off what is on your resume. They also do not want your life’s story. They are looking to hear things that are relevant to the role you are interviewing for. What makes you uniquely qualified for the job?
Think about what your answer will be before you go into the interview. That way you will feel less inclined to nervous rambling.
Show, don’t tell
It is one thing to say you have done something. It is another thing to prove it. Actions speak louder than words.
If you are an innovator (or an excellent motivator or that you impact top and bottom-line growth), most recruiters are not going to just take your word for it. Bring proof to back up your statements. Arm yourself with metrics, results, and stories about your work history that validate your statements. A recruiter is not going to just take your word for it.
When in doubt, be kind. Be polite. Be thoughtful. Treat the people around you with respect, regardless of who they are.
I know hiring managers who ask their receptionists how you behaved while you were waiting for your interview. And, I know someone who, while fighting for a spot to park their car, flipped off the person who was about to interview them. Yeah – that interview didn’t even happen.
Of course, this shouldn’t be your motivation for being kind. It’s just something to keep in mind.
Interviewers will be paying attention to not only what you say, but how you say it. Desperate people don’t get hired. Qualified people do.
The way you talk about former employers/coworkers says a lot about you as well. Badmouthing them will make you look bad and will not net you a follow-up interview.
Authenticity matters. Be honest. Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be what you think the hiring manager wants. Life is short. You spend too much time at work to be in an environment where you don’t fit. You want to be somewhere you feel like you belong and that you are significant. So, be yourself.
If you happen to be the hiring authority, keep an open mind. Your way may not be the best way, and it certainly isn’t the only way. Being a small business gives you the ability to be more flexible.
If all we do is hire people just like us, we’ll never grow. Stagnation will never lead to success.